Age and educational track influence adolescent discounting of delayed rewards.

Research paper by Nikki C NC Lee, Renate H M RH de Groot, Annemarie A Boschloo, Sanne S Dekker, Lydia L Krabbendam, Jelle J Jolles

Indexed on: 15 Jan '14Published on: 15 Jan '14Published in: Frontiers in psychology


This study examined age-related changes in a specific aspect of adolescent decision-making, namely the preference for future versus immediate outcomes. A sample of 622 Dutch adolescents aged 12-17 years completed a temporal discounting task. Participants were asked to choose between a delayed reward of €50 or an immediate reward of lower value. The delay interval was varied in three blocks (1 week, 1 month, 6 months). Results showed that preferences for large delayed rewards over smaller immediate rewards increased with age: late adolescents made more long-term decisions than early adolescents. This change was related to educational track. In the lower educational track, an age-related decrease in discounting was found for all three delay intervals. In the higher educational track this decrease only occurred for the 6 month delay interval. However, across all delay intervals enrolment in a higher level educational track was associated with an increased preference for long-term rewards. These results suggest that late adolescents are less susceptible than early adolescents to the competing presence of an immediate reward when making long-term decisions, a skill which becomes increasingly important as they transition into adulthood.